Killing the golden goose

It looks like my new phone may have a shelf life of less than 24 hours. I’m allowed to return it within 14 days, and I think I will be doing so later today (Saturday). Not because there’s anything wrong with the phone per se — the Sanyo 8300 a great little gadget, with many wonderful features. But it’s missing one very important feature, albeit one Sprint doesn’t officially consider a legitimate “feature” in the first place.

Let me explain. Ever since I bought my Sanyo 8100 in the summer of 2003, I have found that one of its most wonderful features has been the ability to plug it into my laptop and access the Internet from anywhere — the road, motels, friends’ houses, wherever. Indeed, it was that very ability that made CamryCast 2006 possible. Now, you may recall that on Thursday, I wrote that “Sprint’s $15-a-month PCS Vision plan isn’t really designed for mobile webcasts, even if it does make them technically possible.” I also stated on the CamryCast page that “the use of the USB cable [to connect my laptop to the Internet via PCS Vision] is technically unsupported.” But such use has always been possible, so long as I don’t go too nuts with the bandwidth. This FAQ explains:

While Sprint does state in their literature that using your phone as a modem is not permitted, Sprint media relations has defined this to mean that only abusive usage is not permitted. Internal Sprint documents claim that this amount is 500 MB or more per month of data transmitted. If you go over this, Sprint will contact you and advise you to change to a phone-as-modem or aircard plan.

So essentially, I get up to 499 MB of bandwidth per month for the same flat $15 that I pay for my regular “PCS Vision” service (whose stated features include unlimited Picture Mail and “Wireless Web” access on the phone). Compare that to the prices of dedicated wireless Internet plans from Cingular, for example ($20 for 5 MB, $30 for 10 MB, $40 for 20 MB, $50 for 50 MB, $60 for unlimited), and you can see why the ability — “supported” or not — to surf the net as part of my PCS Vision plan, is a real steal.

And therein lies the problem with my new phone: the non-feature feature of cell-phone modem capability — known variously as PAM (phone as modem) or DUN (dial-up networking) or #777 (the code used to dial into PCS Vision from the computer) — which existed on the Sanyo 8100 and many many other Sprint and Sanyo phones, does not exist on the Sanyo 8300. (This despite the fact that my USB cable fits the phone; I did check that at the Sprint store.) PCSintel explains: “The Sanyo MM-8300 cannot be used as a modem. Sanyo made minor modifications to this phone’s modem protocol, and have refused to publish the drivers for the device to be used with a computer.” This discussion thread has lots more discussion of the issue, and there are many other such threads out there, findable via Google.

Alas, I didn’t research this online until I’d already bought the phone, plugged it into my computer, attempted to dial up, and encountered this error:

Ladies and gentlemen, I killed the goose that laid the golden egg. I bought a new, fancier, shinier, better phone — and, in so doing, eliminated the best thing I had going for me, the most valuable Sprint “feature” of all: the ability to virtually freeload off Sprint’s network to get Internet access on the go!

Luckily, as I said, there is a 14-day return policy, and I intend to use it. It will be painful to downgrade from a 8300 back to my 8100 (which I still have, it just needs to be re-activated), especially since this means Becky will have a fancier, newer, more feature-rich phone than me. :) But as nice as the shiny new features (better camera-phone resolution, the ability to shoot short videos, etc.) are, the Internet connectivity — which is arguably worth at least $60 per month — is much more important for me personally.

As a compromise, I think I may ultimately buy the Sanyo 8200 off eBay, and have my account switched over to it. The 8200 has many (though not all) of the improvements seen in the 8300, but it doesn’t have the big drawback: according to everything I’ve read online, the 8200 allows Internet access via #777.

UPDATE: I found a way to bring the golden goose back to life, as explained here: “[T]he re-activated Sanyo 8100[,] my old Sprint phone, [has been] reconstituted as my “new” phone, Becky’s and my third active cell phone (all on the same shared-minutes plan), [and] will be used exclusively for mobile Web access, CamryCasts and such.”

4 Responses to “Killing the golden goose”

  1. Briandot says:

    I use the bluetooth connection on my phone to dialup to T-Mobile, albeit only at GPRS speeds. Very handy.

  2. Joe Loy says:

    Ah, the False allure of The Shiny Thing. :>

  3. texasyank says:

    There has to be a technical term for this kind of simultaneous technological upgrading and downgrading. My freshman year at SC, the big thermometer at the East end, near all the arches, was an analog that went up to either 110 or 120 degrees, and for the first game of the season (Ted Tollner’s debut, a 20-20 tie with Florida) we all sat in misery and watched the arrow spin slowly around to about 108.

    The following summer was the 1984 LA Olympics, and when we returned the following season I noticed that, in the course of giving the Coliseum its facelift, the Olympic people (maybe at the behest of some higher-ups) had replaced our old thermometer with a new digital one. The catch was that the digital thermometer only had two digits, and so the highest possible temperature it could record was 99. I could only conclude that image-crazy Pete U or someone else had decided that spectators would feel more comfortable if presented with a themometer that–in South Central LA, in July and August–was incapable of displaying the actual temperature once it climbed into the hundreds.

  4. Ed says:

    When my Sprint cell phone was stolen last Fall, I was unable to replace it with the same model (discontinued). For me to retain picture-taking ability, I would have had to upgrade significantly to a model with a bunch of wiz-bang geehaws for which I had no need.

    So, for the price I paid originally, I received a phone without picture- taking utility.

    I loathe all the “new & improved” hardware that forces me to pay for things I do not want. This is the same model for service that the cable companies use. I am paying for dozens of channels I will never access.